President Ilham Aliyev interviewed by Italian La Repubblica newspaper
On November 2, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by the Italian La Repubblica newspaper.
-Mr. President, are you already tasting the flavor of the victory?
-Our task was to restore territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and we are coming closer to this task. We have been waiting for restoration of the territorial integrity for almost 30 years. As you know, during all this time Azerbaijan was strictly committed to negotiation process. But unfortunately, it did not result in any tangible outcome. Plus, Armenian leadership during last couple of years was always provoking us by the statements, and by actions, including military provocations. So the last one took place on the 27th of September. We had to respond and our response was very sensitive to Armenia. So, when we talk about the victory we did not put in front of us such a target. We wanted to resolve it at the negotiation table. But we were always ready to do it on the battlefield what we are doing.
-Putin is not willing to intervene. So, you can act without obstacles.
-Actually, I on many occasions commented the situation that co-chairs of the Minsk Group, 3 countries which are at the same time permanent members of the Security Council of United Nations, adopted resolutions back in 1993 which demanded immediate and complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the Azerbaijani territories. Therefore, these countries themselves created the legal base for the settlement. But Armenia did not implement these resolutions. Another point, which I was referring to is that mediators must be neutral, no matter how they feel about situation. How close their relations are with us, or with Armenia, but if they are not neutral they cannot be mediators. Therefore, the neutrality now which we more or less see on the ground I think is the only way how the things can happen. Therefore, it was not a kind of a green light for us. We responded to Armenian attack on the 27th of September without any 100% understanding who will do what. We just did what we thought was right to defend our country, to defend our people, and to restore justice.
-How useful is the Ankara support to your action?
-It is very useful. This support came from the very beginning, from the early hours of the clashes which started on the 27th of September. President of Turkey made a very clear statement that Turkey stands side by side with Azerbaijan. That was a very important sign of political and moral support, and I many times referred to the fact that this is only political and moral support, but it was sufficient. Because such a strong country as Turkey when openly declares its position on this issue, it also sends the signal to the whole world, that Azerbaijan is doing the right thing. Azerbaijan is restoring it’s territorial integrity, Azerbaijan is fighting on its territory. We are not aggressors, we are not attacking other countries. Therefore, this political support which started in the early hours of the clashes and continues up to now is very important for the conflict resolution.
-What can you say about the jihadists’ presence that president Macron, Russian foreign minister denounced that they are fighting against Armenia with your army. Is it true?
-On many occasions I already during this time, more than one month, referred to this issue and said that this is not true. This is not correct information. I don’t know why this information was circulated, and still is circulated. First, we haven’t been provided with any evidence, any proof about that. All were words, and those words were articulated in the early days of the conflict. And you referred to President Macron’s statement about that. That was only in the first days of the conflict. Since that time, we didn’t hear these kind of statements. So this is first. No proofs no evidence. Second, no need. Many times I said we have an army of a 100 thousand fighters, a regular army. We can mobilize several times more if we announce the total mobilization. We have modern weapons. We have a sophisticated technology. And we have a very high moral spirit. Therefore, there is no need for that. But unfortunately, what happens on the other side is being ignored. We already have enough evidences about foreigners fighting on Armenian side. They say they are native Armenians but first, it does not make any difference, because if foreign citizen is fighting against one country against another, it is a mercenary. Then, we do not have a 100% evidence that all of them are Armenians. We know that there are others. We know that PKK is there, we know that some terrorists from the Middle East joined the so-called “army of Nagorno-Karabakh”. Therefore, unfortunately, this issue is absolutely out of picture. So, it creates an impression of a deliberate political attack on Azerbaijan. Plus, why Armenians are also exploiting this false statement, because for them probably it is very painful to admit that we beat them on the battlefield. For 30 years, they have been pretending that they have an unbeatable army. For 30 years they were telling that they on their own occupied our territories. Though, we know that it was wrong. So, we proved them who is who. We proved that their so-called “unbeatable army” is a legend, is a mythology. And for them to admit it is very painful. But they have already admitted their defeat. Prime minister Pashinyan sent a letter to President Putin asking for a military help. This is an admitting of their military defeat and our victory.
-What will be the difficulty for you to manage a possible victory, in the territory which populated by 98% of Armenian people?
-This territory was populated with maybe higher now. It was higher. Because all Azerbaijanis have been expelled. They committed ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis. It’s a statistics, soviet statistics, not our statistics. How many people of different nationalities lived in Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous district in the end of 1970s? Almost 25% of the population there were Azerbaijanis. 40 thousand people. Shusha was 98% percent inhabited by Azerbaijanis. Today, there is no one. In Khankandi, there have been many Azerbaijanis. In Hadrut district, in other districts. Khojaly, which they committed a genocide, was 100% Azerbaijanis. So, they have been all ethnically cleansed, killed, tortured and expelled. And unfortunately, no one, no one accused Armenia of that. We did not see any sanctions on Armenia. We did not see any serious information supporting us. So, that was done and they created reality on the ground. This is the first thing. Second thing, 200 years ago, there were no Armenians at all there. Because I many times referred to the treaties which Karabakh khan signed with Russian empire. That Kurakchay treaty of 1805, nothing is said about ethnic Armenians there.
Ethnic Armenians were brought to that region from eastern Anatolia and Persia, by Tsarist Russia in order to change religious and ethnic composition of the region. So, this is historical part. Now coming to your question. I many times said that all those who live in Nagorno-Karabakh will continue to live there in peace and dignity. Armenians are our citizens. There are thousands of Armenians who live in different parts of Azerbaijan, primarily in Baku, and those Armenians who live in Nagorno-Karabakh can be sure that their security will be provided, their financial situation will be much better. And they will live much better life than today under this suppression of the junta regime in Nagorno-Karabakh.
-Three ceasefires as already were broken. The peace talks seem not to get any result. Who is to blame for?
-Armenia. Look at their chronology. First, ceasefire was agreed in Moscow. In less than 24 hours they attacked Ganja with ballistic missiles from the territory of Armenia. It is proven. Russia, France and United States and many other countries can detect the launch of ballistic missiles. So, they know, it was launched from Armenia, and Pashinyan was lying when he said that it was not them. So, that was in less than 24 hours. They attacked at night, in a very mean way. They attacked deliberately the residential settlement. And as a result of two attacks almost 30 people, innocent people, including children were killed. The second ceasefire was violated by them after five minutes of the announcement of that. And the third ceasefire they violated attacking Barda. So, it was not us. What were we supposed to do? Sit and wait when they are killing us? Of course, we respond and will continue to do it. They needed ceasefire in order to continue their aggression, in order to try to regain and occupy again the territories which we have liberated. And also they wanted to create a chaos, panic in Azerbaijan by attacking civilians but they miscalculated the spirit of Azerbaijani people. Yes, we suffer from these mean attacks. We have 91 civilians so far killed, and more than 400 wounded. But this did not break our will, on the contrary, it makes us even stronger.
-What would you answer to premier Pashinyan that I met 3 weeks ago? He said that you’re here for a new genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh.
-Absolutely false. All their history is false. There is no signs of that. You know, as I said, there are thousands of Armenians living in Azerbaijan. There are no Azerbaijanis living in Armenia or in Nagorno-Karabakh. 99% of Armenian population are ethnic Armenians. Can you find any other country in our region where such a full domination of one nationality? It is a mono-ethnic republic. Why? Because either they expel everybody, or other nationalities cannot live there. Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional country. Therefore, talking about the so-called genocide is absolutely unacceptable and this is another fake which they want to present as they always do. They always want to present themselves as the people who always suffering, always crying always needing help. And today look, he calls President Putin 5 times a day. He calls President Macron maybe less, but still. He calls everyone. He calls European leaders. He asks for recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh not understanding that there is a unified position of European Union on territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Therefore, he tries to use every fake method in order to get some support. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong. And as I said, and I am responsible for what I am saying, those Armenians who live in Nagorno-Karabakh can be sure that their security will be provided.
-With Italy you have a special partnership, you are our first provider of oil and gas. Are you afraid that if the war get bloodier and bloodier that partnership could be affected or not?
-I don’t think so. First, I think that the sooner the war stops the better. And we made such a suggestion. And our proposal was very constructive. I said many times during this more than one month, I can repeat once again. We are ready to stop today. If Armenian prime minister makes a committment that they will liberate the remaining part of the territories. He has not made this committment so far. When asked about compromises, he always talks about a self-determination. But self-determination is not the compromise they have to do. Their compromise must be liberation of all occupied territories with respect to the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, and the basic principles. Because basic principles say that five regions and then two. So, five are already done by us unilaterally. Therefore, he must say that he will pull back the troops from remaining part of Aghdam and Kalbajar and Lachin districts. But he doesn’t make this statement. So it shows that he doesn’t want the war to stop. We are ready. This is first. Second, I don’t think that it will create any complications with respect to our relations with our partners. With Italy we have a special relations. We have signed a document which is called a Strategic Partnership document. And just before the pandemic I paid an official visit to Italy which was very successful and with very big plans I returned back home. I am sure we will implement those plans though pandemic interfered a little bit. But it is mainly non-related to energy sector. On energy track, we did I think all what we planned today. I think Italy for us is a major trading partner, because of oil supplies. And also soon we will celebrate the inauguration of TAP. Thus, Southern Gas Corridor will be completed. Plus, many Italian companies work in Azerbaijan successfully for many years. We are planning to invite more Italian companies as contractors. By the way, they have completed such important projects as petrochemicals here and together with President Mattarella we have been at the opening ceremony. Therefore, I am sure that this conflict will influence our relations neither with Italy nor with any other country. So, I am sure about that.